Jekyll Island.

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We were in Jekyll Island last week for our annual family vacation.

I love that place.  I just LOVELOVELOVE it!

It’s really just a magical place.  So wonderful and fun.  So, so perfect.

We…

Played in the ocean for hours, went on a dolphin tour, hung out with Grandma and PawPaw and our cousins and some aunts and uncles, grilled out with family, visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, went to a water park, visited Driftwood Beach, went on a bike ride, flew a kite, collected 100 sand dollars (and threw them back!), walked around the Millionaire’s Village, Tom fell in love with the beach even more, Kevin ate crab legs, and one evening at dinner — Alice fell asleep in my arms.

It was the best of times.

I have a slideshow of photos to prove it.

 

I’m ready to go back.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Kevin, Motherhood, Tom, Travel | 1 Comment

Caving At Cloudland.

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I’m backtracking, because I cannot not tell you about this most awesome adventure my Mom and I had this year!

My Mom’s birthday is in April, and this year to celebrate, she and I went caving at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

(This does not count as April’s state park visit, because just my Mom was with me.  But I’d love to come back with my little family, because it takes my breath away with how beautiful it is.)

So! For this adventure, I signed us up for a 2-hour tour with Georgia Girl Guides.

I read everything on their website. I explained it all to my mom and asked her if she would do it with me.  She (of course) said YES.  And then we did it.

And it was THE. BEST. EVER.

Even though I felt prepared after everything I read, and even though I expected to really, really love it — it surpassed my expectations.

I just was IN LOVE with it.

Here’s the deal: They tell you to wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting really wet and really muddy.  They tell you to bring a change of clothes.  They supply you with knee pads, helmet with a light, and gloves.  And they explain everything to you that you see.

It is amazing.

The girls that run this company are awesome. I felt like they were my friends.  We had cool people in our group (a family with a couple teenagers) and it just made for an awesome experience.  I was so happy my mom was there to experience this with me.

We saw bats!

(Kate fact: I like bats a lot.  They eat mosquitoes. They are my friends.)

We trekked through knee-high cold water.  This surprised me!  For some reason, I thought it would be like…ankle-deep?  No.  You pretty much enter the cave, and then jump in to cold water and walk through it for a while.  There are parts of the tour that are not in water, but I think about half is.

The cave is so beautiful and amazing.  Just something I never dreamed I’d see.  It was awesome!

And toward the end of the tour, our guides had us sit down and we all turned off our lights.

Y’all?

I have never “seen” dark like that before.

Such a cool experience all around.

I truly, truly cannot wait to do it again.

Who’s with me?

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Before.

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That hole is what we climbed out of at the end of the tour. Crazy!

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Entering the cave.

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I had my iPhone in a waterproof case on this trip — so my pics look like…they were taken with an iPhone. ;)  Still amazing, though, right?!

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That’s a cluster of about 7 bats sleeping together.

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The formations at the top right were called “cave bacon” because it looks like…bacon strips!

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Walking through water.

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This was Mom after she did a “challenge.”  You didn’t have to do this, but some things were a little more challenging and they gave you the option.  We did all of them!  This one was crazy — you had to seriously angle your head a certain way to squeeze through a spot that looked impossible.  But we did it!  So cool.  So impressed with my mom.

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She did it!

Isn’t my mom rad?

I know.

Next year I think I owe her a spa experience. ;)

Can’t wait.

Posted in Family, Georgia Outdoors, Georgia State Parks, Travel | 2 Comments

Cheered Up.

Monday, I got a book to read when we go to the beach next week — a definite beachy read (The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand).

But then I couldn’t help myself and decided to start reading it right away.

And then I finished it yesterday.

(Oops.)

Anyway, toward the end, there was a sad part and I started to cry.

(I’m a sap.)

Alice: “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

Me: “Oh! Nothing. This is just a sad book I’m reading.”

And then what happened next was the sweetest bit of cheering up I’ve ever had.

Alice immediately snatched the book out of my hands and snapped it shut.

Then she wiped a tear off my face.

Then she ran into her playroom, brought out her bin of instruments and announced she was going to play me song.

She banged the drums, the piano, and handed me a shaker and played her little heart out.

“Are you happy now, Mommy?” she asked.

Yes.

I’m very, very happy now, Alice.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Motherhood | 1 Comment

Gymnastics and Soccer.

This Spring, Tom and Alice each had an activity.

Tom decided he wanted to do soccer again, even though his mom kept saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to try T-ball?”  Ha!

He was sure, and he had a great time!

He was on a team with his buddies again, and it was a blast.

He did really well this year.  Totally chased the ball.  Sometimes kicked it.

I mean, he pretended he was a velociraptor while doing it (complete with noises), but he did it!

In Pre-K drama, the two loves of his Pre-K life were on the same team (different from Tom’s), but that didn’t seem to bother anyone involved at all.

Typical Saturday morning during practice:

Ella: “Hey, Thomas!”

Tom: “Hey. How are you doing?”

Ella: “Good!”

Ashley: *shyly waves*

Tom: “Hey, Ashley!!”

So. Awesome.

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Alice had gymnastics this spring.

She went to a gymnastics party in January, and was hooked after that.

She loves it!

It was her idea to get a leotard to wear to her class.

No one else wears one. Just Alice.  She just wants to fit the part!

She loves doing her tricks and the balance beam.

She started off in a class for 2.5 year olds, and she loved that one.  She always participated and loved everything about it.

After she turned three, we moved her to a more independent 3 year old class.  I was still there, but she was supposed to do more stuff without me.

That didn’t work so well for her.  She really wanted to do her own thing — with me — and not the class.

So there you have it!  Alice wants to do gymnastics her way! Shocking. :)

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And finally, PLEASE don’t give Alice any awards in the future. She hates being awesome.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Motherhood, Tom | 2 Comments

Tom’s Pre-K Graduation.

Tom graduated from Pre-K last week.

He is a preschool graduate!  A future Kindergartner!

I remember thinking when people told me that signing your child up for kindergarten was a major milestone, I understood what they meant, but I didn’t really understand all the feelings that go along with that.

In my case, after I registered Tom for kindergarten, I went to my car and CRIED.

Like, poor Alice was like, “Are you okay Mommy?  Are those happy tears?”  Ha!

But after that little display, I felt fine about him “graduating” preschool.

Except when we arrived at graduation that day, and I caught a glimpse of the kids in their little caps and gowns, I CRIED again!

I couldn’t help it!  As soon as I saw them, I could immediately picture them graduating high school and leaving me forever, because I am crazy.

Kevin said, “Are you crying?  At a preschool graduation?!”

Y’all. I’ve got no family understanding of the crisis that is TOM GRADUATING PRE-K.

So! Tom graduated Pre-K.

He marched in to the graduation music.  He stood up and did all the movements to the songs the other kids were singing.  He accepted his diploma, so happy to see it had a dinosaur on it.  He posed for pictures with his teacher, his family, his classmates and his best friends.  He ate cake afterwards.  And probably really didn’t exactly know what was going on, but it was great.  It was a really great day.  And I really didn’t cry that much.

I have loved our preschool for Tom. His teachers and friends have been so great, and I’m so happy he has had such fun and memorable experiences there.  He has learned so much, and I am so thankful for this school.  It’s probably what makes me so anxious about next year.  How will a school ever live up to this sweet place? It has been the greatest.

He is so excited about going to kindergarten and going to a “big kid” school.  So. Excited.

But I know that he has loved, loved, loved his preschool.

He will miss it.  And I will miss him being there.

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Please enjoy the hilariousness that is Tom not singing, but participating nonetheless, in this performance…

Posted in Motherhood, Tom | 2 Comments

Georgia State Parks: Tallulah Gorge State Park.

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May park: Tallulah Gorge State Park.

Originally, I didn’t have Tallulah on my list for this year.

I have been to Tallulah a few times, but all of those times were before we had kids.

And what I knew about Tallulah was that it has this really spectacular bridge, that you have to take many steps to get to — and I wasn’t sure that the kids would do it or that I wanted to carry them.

But then I saw a couple of things on blogs that said they had taken their kids!

They had either taken them down the steps and to the bridge and stated that it wasn’t too bad, or they had skipped the bridge, just hiked around the top, and had a good time doing just that.

So!  At the very last minutes, I added Tallulah back for May.

And I decided that we’d hike around the top a little, and if the kids seemed good, we’d try the steps to the bridge.

And now there is one other thing I’d like to disclose before I tell you exactly how it went…

I was sick for a week leading up to this trip.

As in, the day before this trip was the first day I started feeling slightly better.

So I’m thinking, I probably should NOT have gone this day.  But I did because I was scared the rest of our May was busy with Tom’s soccer and end of the year festivities!

GETTING THERE

From our house, it took about an hour and 40 minutes to get there.  The kids are good travelers and that was the same this day.  They watched a movie in the car, and we stopped once for an Alice potty break. No problems and I think the drive there is really nice and easy.  And once you get close to Tallulah, it’s beautiful.

WHAT WE DID

As soon as we arrived, we ate our picnic lunch in the parking area.  That sounds worse than it is — the parking area has a really pretty grassy area that is perfect for picnicking!  It’s right in front of their visitor center, and even has a cute little path you can walk through and rocks for Alice to climb.

We decided to hike the North Rim Trail, which took us to two overlooks.  The overlooks are perfect for amazing views!!  So pretty!  It was just gorgeous green trees and the amazing gorge!  So great!  The first overlook was super easy to get to.  It also has the remnants of the tower that was used to hold the wire that Karl Wallenda walked on across the gorge (crazy/amazing!!). The second overlook required us to walk uphill a ways, but the view was spectacular.  Tom used the walk on the trail to occasionally set up his dinosaurs and make a “dinosaur world,” which is his favorite thing to do.  It was during the hike up to the second overlook that I knew we wouldn’t be doing the stairs/bridge thing.  The kids were having fun and were fine, but I could tell that it wasn’t their absolute best day.  Alice wanted to be carried. Tom said that he wanted to stop.  And of course, I wasn’t 100%.  So I knew that we would just be doing this and that was fine!  The overlooks were cool, I was glad we got to see the gorge, and it was a beautiful day.

After the hike, we visited the visitor center which is GREAT.  Lots of animals to see, so the kids had a great time.

After the park, I decided that since we were already in the area, we should visit the famed Goats on a Roof roadside attraction.  We’d seen it many times on our travels, but had never stopped!  Every time we drive by, we see — you guessed it! — goats on the roof!  So we went, and guess what?  No goats!!!  I mean, they were there, up on the roof, but they were like…napping or something?  We didn’t see them!  People were actually buying food, and using this conveyor belt thing to take the food up to them, and the food just dumped out into a big pile.  NO GOATS!  Ha ha!  The kids had no idea what we were doing, or why we were there, but they got ice cream so they thought it was an amazing place.

MY VOTE

Okay, so in the past, I’ve never really “ranked” our state park visits, and that’s because I have honestly loved them all so much for different reasons.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to really rank them, but if I was, this would be my 5th place out of five. Sorry, Tallulah!  I love your name, and you are beautiful!!

But I didn’t think it worked because:

I have young kids.  I’m thinking this would’ve been better if we had been *staying* there for the weekend. This place is great and amazing, but for young kids, I just don’t see it being a one-day destination if you live more than an hour away.  If we were to pass it on our way somewhere, I would stop, for sure!  If I lived closer, absolutely! But it’s a long way to drive for what basically ends up being a short hike with littles (if you don’t do the steps!).  And then there were NO GOATS! ;)

With that said, every visit to a state park with my family is so special to me, and this one is no exception.  I love going on these trips with my family.  I love that we are discovering so much together.  And I love that this visit made me think about how awesome a visit will be here with my kids *next* year!

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Goats (no goats)…

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(This thing reminded me of the movie BIG and it creeped me out.  Tom loved it.  And he stayed small, so that was awesome. Ha!)

Read about our other Georgia State Park adventures so far this year!

January park: Sweetwater Creek State Park.
February park: FDR State Park.
March park: Providence Canyon State Park
April park: George L. Smith State Park

Follow our adventures on Instagram! #12parksin2015

Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Georgia State Parks, Kevin, Motherhood, Tom, Travel | Leave a comment

Georgia Hike With Kids: Arabia Mountain.

So I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been researching a lot of Georgia State Parks and everything they have to offer in preparation of our yearly goal.

The great thing that’s happened is that I’ve discovered so many other great hiking adventures that are near us — that are not necessarily state parks!

And I must give credit where credit is due.  I’ve gotten the majority of my ideas from two blogs: 365 Atlanta Family and Atlanta Trails.

They are both excellent resources if you’re interested!  Both have specific blog entries dedicated to hiking with kids around the Atlanta area.

And that is how I came to discover Arabia Mountain.

I knew about Panola Mountain State Park, which is near Arabia, but I didn’t realize that Arabia was its own thing.

And its own really beautiful thing at that!

I was amazed!  It was like a smaller way-way-way-less-crowded version of Stone Mountain.

We went on Valentine’s Day — and the great thing was that some of the diamorpha, a tiny, rare plant that blooms crimson in early spring, was starting to come up in some spaces!  I was thrilled!

And this place was great for my kids because Alice loves climbing rocks, and Tom loves climbing mountains.  This place had both.

I could barely keep up with Tom. He practically ran up the mountain!

We brought a picnic lunch and enjoyed the day. It was really, really great.

We will definitely visit again and explore more.

(Specifically, we did the Arabia Mountain Top Trail.)

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Tiny Tom is waving at me from way up there! And this pic is un-edited.  The sky was really THAT blue.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Kevin, Motherhood, Tom | Tagged , , | 3 Comments